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Interview with the Audio Portal: Defining Music - Part 1

Posted by TheInterviewer - March 3rd, 2011


Interview No. 41

Interview By: The-Great-One

Today's guests are the musicians of the Newgrounds Audio Portal. I have decided to question them about what the definition of music is. Their answers are similar and different in their own right. Overall I will admit that this interview has been done for personal reasons, but for those who tend to listen to music it is a question that comes to mind. So I thought who better to ask than those who actually make music.

I questioned the Audio Forum on what the definition of music is. You can read their responses within this thread. So you can gather a wider scope if you want one.

The following musicians of the Audio Portal I have asked for further questioning on this subject are @thatcomposerguy, @Goukisan, @Kingbastard, @Chronamut, @F-777, and @InvisibleObserver. These are the fine musicians of the Newgrounds Audio Portal and they are here to tell us what music is as well as share their stories about some of their works.

[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]


Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?


thatcomposerguy: I discovered Newgrounds when a friend of mine told me about Salad Fingers. It was one of the most disturbing things I had seen at the time. I was hooked ever since. I joined in 2005 so I could start putting music on the portal.

Goukisan: That's a good question.. It was so long ago now. I first ended up on Newgrounds for the flash movies and games. I didn't even know about the Audio portal at that time. I think the first thing I saw was the xiao xiao series which I was a big fan of. It was only after discovering the Audio portal that I decided to make a user account, so that I could upload.

Kingbastard: I found Newgrounds back in 2004 by chance. I was experimenting with electronic music at the time and I wanted an outlet to share my material and get feedback on it. Newgrounds offered me this opportunity and a lot more in the way of entertainment too, so joining was a no-brainer.

Chronamut: Funny story that is - I was in Flash class in college and we were all worknig on flash and I had a friend of mine that was sitting in the row in front of me watching a flash video on newgrounds and I asked him what site it was, and so I checked it out, and the rest was history!

I didn't end up joining until I learned there was an audio portal section and started to tinker with audio for fun after listening to some of the users in the portal - back then there was barely ANYONE in the audio portal.

F-777: I can't exactly remember how but I was 11 years old and was looking up advanced versions of "Fur Elise" for piano, and I ended up finding a remix on this site. I think that's how XD.

InvisibleObserver: I had an account before this one for the purposes of watching flash videos and playing games. I uploaded a bit of music on it too for some feedback.

Q: How did you discover music?


thatcomposerguy: Its hard to say when I exactly discovered music, but there are several items that stand out in my memory from when I was younger. Some of these include, the Lion King soundtrack, Mr. Big's "I Just want to be wit you," Mahler V, my mother singing "Lullaby and Goodnight" as I drifted off to sleep, and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Goukisan: I've always loved music. I remember being in Kindergarden and listening to old cassette tapes they had of Elvis. I had no idea who Elvis was and I didn't care but I loved that music for some reason. I can't even remember a single song but I do remember sitting there listening to it in the corner every day. As I grew up I got really into grunge (Nirvana) and then eventually punk and metal and all along I had a huge love of video game music.

Kingbastard: Music has always been around me and I have always been around music, as far back as I can remember anyway.

Chronamut: well I played the recorder and banged on a piano and guitar at random points in my life but nothing ever serious.

F-777: Oh when I was like 2 years old I used to listen to my dad play piano all the time and I wished I could play like him, but it wasn't till I was 6 years old when I got really serious about it and started playing every day. I think my real discovery though was when my dad took me to a music shop when I was 4 years old and I realized that the piano was only ONE of the many instruments in the world.

InvisibleObserver: When I was in the single digits of age I watched a lot of Disney film with my sister, and we played alot to it. Fantasia comes to mind. We also own a clavinova with a large array of built in songs that were fooled around with, though I never really played piano, nor listened much to music until about grade 12 (just a few years ago).

Q: What first inspired you to make music?


thatcomposerguy: The soundtrack to "A Perfect Storm" by James Horner really instilled something in my to want to be a film composer. At that time I had never thought about the possibility of composing for games, but that seems to be what I do most of and I have a great time doing it.

Goukisan: Video games most definitely... Although my first exposure to music composition was a humble FL Studio demo that my friend had on his computer. I figured out how to make a simple beat on the step sequencer and I was hooked. I enjoyed the idea of being able to create an entire song by myself and have it sound exactly how I wanted. It's the same sort of story of how I got into computer programming.

Kingbastard: I played instruments at a young age at school, but I gave up after a little while, so I never truly got into making music until much later on. I was inspired by picking up the guitar again at the age of 19, a friend of mine I lived with at the time was a great guitarist and encouraged me to do it, so I would have to say he was the first point of inspiration (Thanks Tim:).

As soon as I had learnt the basics again and how to play some Smashing Pumpkins & Radiohead songs I immediately wanted to start making my own stuff.

Chronamut: one day in my final year of highschool in computer class we were looking for a program to make music and downloaded fruity loops 3 - none of us really lined it and threw it out and used some royalty-free music for our project instead - college rolled around and I was bored one day and asked my friend to send me the program - I made 2 really shitty songs that you can still hear today in my submissions and then tossed it out for 2 months - then upgraded to fruity loops 4.6 I htink it was and tried again and the rest is history!

F-777: Lion King. Enough said...oh, and Zircon.

InvisibleObserver: I was 10, on another flash site and the artist credited himself for his audio. My mind was blown, real people could apparently single handed write their own music. He even provided a link to a cracked copy of FL3. I downloaded it and commenced my step into frustration.

The flash animation was this one. http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/

du defalling

Q: What is in your opinion, the definition of music?


thatcomposerguy: That's the age old questions, isn't it? To me, music is simply expression. Rather its art, or not, that's not for me to judge, but every piece of music that someone creates is an expression of themselves to some degree.

Goukisan: That's a very hard question to answer but fun to think about. I guess I'd say that Music is a medium for transmitting, or conveying emotions through sounds. It's something that is intrinsically understood by all humans without the need for words or language, like Math. In fact it's very closely related to Math in my mind but much more grounded in emotions than logic.

Kingbastard: Difficult question, I like the phrase coined by Edgard Varèse, that it is "organized sound", but I think for me it's a very true form of expression, when done honestly, & a unique, diverse outlet of imagination, creativity & emotion.

Chronamut: anything that involves harmony, melody, and a human desire of expression.

F-777: Sound. Melodies and chord progressions are required for a great song but everything comes down to just, sound. With one sound, example just a piano, more notes are required to create a song (for the most part) but with an orchestra the entire group can do a simple chord progression that just sounds beautiful because of the compilation of sounds.

InvisibleObserver: You've already received a pastiche of idea's of what music is according to a handful of musicians, producers, and I'll assume non-musically entwined known contacts. I'd rather attempt to define why there is an excessive variance on people ability to come to a solid answer on the topic of music.

Philosophically when approaching the issue of defining, or discussing the essence of music two major character groups exist in which we speak about our essence. We have those who are familiar and intelligent about the topic; musicians, producers, physicists/mathematicians/technicians who are into sound and music itself. The other side, more colloquial listener, appreciator, fan, non-production related individual who is interested not in making, but in more of a cultural, social dynamic, dancing, bobbing head accepting what they hear. Yourself for example. Between what I'll just dub producer and listener, there is a ton of gray territory (yourself again, by having sought more information). However what is not so gray is that when talking about our abstract topic of music, what defines the essence is different according to the two groups and suddenly we have a ton of varying accidents from both perspectives. While both are right in the context of their own belief of what music is and how it relates to them, their thoughts do not effect what music is, but the others interaction with music.

Which roughly reads as a very well known discourse of commercial versus underground, unoriginal versus original, the known versus the unknown, and the producer and listener. The list goes on, but its a big circle of poor communication of and about music, and how it relates to us. In the way most people speak about music, there is this weird attempt at defining music by example, or solidifying the topic into a more definitive confine and it almost always falls back into a deconstructive loop of balancing popularity and commercialism against artistic originality.

This being said, I'm a producer and I generally dislike casually talking about music to people who don't understand what I do about sound. Either their eager to learn and I'm now in the role of educating, which is fine but can become tiring. The other possibility is they think their emotional opinions carry some significant weight of meaning. Conversations like that go like "This genre is so good!" "Why?" "Uh, it has a good beat." "Explain the beat." "Uhhh..."

Other then my philosophical deconstructive rough analysis of a beaten-to-death discourse that not many people in my mind talk about with the slightest of intelligence, music to me personally is something with an endless array of possibilities for production and manipulation which is quite fun to create within as a medium.

Q: Is there any artist or person you look to as a mentor or a guide?


thatcomposerguy: Pretty much every film composer has been sort of a guide, especially Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Michael Giachinno, and Steve Jablonsky. On newgrounds, wyldfyre1 has always been a constant reviewer and all around good person to talk to with and has tons of great music. Also, I wouldn't be anything with God for giving me the talent.

Goukisan: Of course I have to mention Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy), Michiru Yamane(Castlevania), and the several composers who worked on the Megaman tunes over the years. I completely owe my ear for a 'catchy melody' to them.

Kingbastard: I have an eclectic range of influences musically speaking, but to cite one as more influential than another, or to say I am guided or mentored by them would be incorrect, so no, not really.

Chronamut: Dreamscaper, ParagonX9 and Evil dog. Xbrav helped me progress a lot too on this site. That's pretty much it. They were the only people that really existed when I started out here, who are still here.

F-777: Thats the thing, iv been left in the dark by most musicians I look up to. However I have had so much help from random places at random times. For example, Kr1z and I share new techniques/tips with each other that we have learned on our own. Also, I get reviews all the time on this site from new people who just have the most AMAZING ideas. On msn somebody will hear my song and even if they don't know any music terms they still portray their ideas by saying things like "oh like those notes at 1:30 with the plucky thing maybe make them like higher or something" or "that beat thing sounds a bit too loud" and have still really helped me out that way. (Sometimes people hum there idea over a microphone haha). So I can't name a mentor, but there are thousands of people who have helped me out =).

InvisibleObserver: At this stage in time, not exactly. The user Gravey and I talk alot, but on an even footing. For a while he assisted me more then I helped him, but our strengths are varied from one anothers which is mutually beneficial.

Q: When it comes to writing your music without really much to inspire you, where does it start? Where does the first note come down and where does the song end?


thatcomposerguy: Rather its for a project with little information about the music, or for sitting down and trying to write for myself, its the same process. I try to picture myself in a/the scenario and, from there, imagine the kind feelings I would have in that scenario and use those emotions to create the score. I really do try to make it as personal as possible.

Goukisan: Generally I have a melody in my head that I like and so I sit down and try to recreate it in the computer. Then I just sort of take it from there and try to imagine a different melody playing with the one I just finished and repeat the process. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what I want to do, I just search around the various sounds that I've got until I hear one that strikes a cord with me (no pun intended). Sometimes I hear a single note and just sort of know what should come next. Those are the times that I guess you would say I'm 'inspired' though.

Kingbastard: For me there is no real distinction between the first note and the last note, a song should be a natural progression, if it comes it comes, if not then I leave it alone. A song can start and finish in my head before anything is even played or written down, or it can be a process of very specifically setting out to start at point(a) and finish at point(b). I suppose what I'm trying to say is that my method for creating music is varied and often depends on the kind of music I am making.

Chronamut: I find in those instances a lot of my ideas come right when I wake up, or when I am at work - at times where I can't really write them down - so I'll play them over and over in my head and then toss them into a midi when I get home and then store them for god knows how long until I stumble upon them years later and make a song on them. My songs can take anywhere from a day to sometiems a week - but usually a day to 3 days to make a song.

F-777: I get this question a lot. Basically whenever I have music block I just look at my options. Should i remake an old song? Remix something? Try a new genre? Just fool around? For the most part I never admit to music block. I just scrap project after project until iv made an idea im happy with. Endings I actually have no clue how to explain how I decide to end a song.

InvisibleObserver: Creativity is easily artificed and machinated. You could ask how people write music while inspired and you'd get an equally fluffy answer which wouldn't make sense to your perspective and associated language use while addressing the essence of music. When you do start understanding what someone or we say, you're probably on the road to losing your ability to be a listener.

Q: What programs, instruments, and/or equipment do you use to not only create your music, but share it with the world?


thatcomposerguy: This will be a shocker to most people. I've had a lot of hardships and roadblock growing up so money hasn't really been a luxury to spend on equipment. All I use is a Behringer UMX610 midi keyboard with Garageband, yes Garageband on my iMac G5. As far as software I always go for EastWest.

Goukisan: 99% of the stuff I've done is 100% FL Studio. I've used Reason a little bit here and there but basically that's it. I've only ever uploaded stuff on Newgrounds and then people have taken it from there. (Actually I uploaded a few to Youtube because other people's videos of my songs were taken down)

Kingbastard: Equipment: [My current kit-list includes: Sony VAIO AW11z Laptop, RK Rokit R6 G2 Studio Monitors, Yamaha Acoustic Guitar FG Series, Yamaha Guitalele GL-1, Epiphone Les Paul Special II GT Electric Guitar, Epiphone Les Paul Special Bass Guitar, Acoustic 12 String, Gretsch Lap Steel Slide Guitar, Tanglewood Electro-Acoustic Guitar, Roland GAIA Synthesizer, Novation Launchpad, Kaoss Pad III, BOSS Micro BR, ZOOM H-1 Handy Recorder, Behringer V-Amp II, Behringer Bass V-Amp, Shure SM58 Microphone, SE Electronics X1 Project RF Microphone & Reflexion Filter, Tanglewood Banjo, Starmaker Ukelele, Samsung-SyncMaster P2270HD as an extra Monitor, Stylophone, Stylophone Beatbox, Casio PT-20 & SA-5 retro keyboards, KORG Monotron, KORG nanoKONTROL & nanoPAD, Roland SP808ex, Percussion (including: tamborine, egg shaker, maracas, bongos), Melodica, Hohner Harmonicas & a Kazzoo:]

Sites I use to share music are: Newgrounds, Bandcamp, Myspace, Soundcloud, Last FM, Facebook, Twitter etc....

Chronamut: Fl studio mostly. I also use Cool Edit Pro for additional editing and eqing and altering of the finished file. I also have a penny whistle, a yamaha midi player and a H2 zoom portable recording device. I also sometimes use Trackers, and sometimes Propellorhead Reason, although I find the program to be extremely rigid.

F-777: FL studio 9 XXL and various plugins. My only piece of solid equipment at the moment is my mouse and that is a HUGE holdback for me because considering that I have been playing piano for almost 10 years....ya a midi controller keyboard would definitely make my life a million times easier haha.

InvisibleObserver: For sharing, I'm using newgrounds, facebook, and bandcamp. For instruments, I own and play ukelele, digeridoo, jawharp and piano. Though for my electronic music purposes I sample varied things with my Tascam DR-07. I use FL studio and an awful lot of plugins, though some favorites are db_glitch, protoplasm, synplant and drum samples for slicing and reshaping. Soon I'll have a keyboard hooked up to my computer to help twiddle around, as is I'm sequencing by mouse.

Q: There are many other musicians getting into music. What advice would you like to give them?


thatcomposerguy: Run. Run as hard as you can. And I don't mean run away. You've got to stick with it and work at it everyday. There's a lot of competition out there and the only way to separate yourself from them is to be passionate and work hard.

Goukisan: Do more than I've done. Haha, I really have never taken it very seriously and I believe that I only became somewhat popular by chance. If I were to really try to get my stuff out there and make it big, I guess I would start by sending samples to various places. First place to start would be college radio stations because you can easily get your stuff on the air and be heard. Then you can go to bigger stations or what have you and say 'Here I've been played on all these stations, give me a shot' and who knows? Handing out CD's for free works too. Also GET IN FLASH GAMES. That is a huge source of listeners and the demographic is perfect for video game music if that's your thing.

Kingbastard: Don't bother if your sole aim is to make money, do it honestly & for the love of putting your creativity and imagination into one of the purest art-forms there is.

Chronamut: try to carve out your own sound - it's fine to have mentors, but don't leech onto them in an attempt to suck out all their talent and make it yours. Also if you don't feel like you have the drive inside you to write a song down - don't. Forced songs are a terrible way to make music - you should do it when the muse hits you. Also try not to listen to genres a lot and emulate them - as you will only end up being a copcat to a genre - try to forge your own.

F-777: ASK FOR HELP!!! That sounds awful by itself but what I mean is, when you're talking to a musician who you think is way better than you, ask questions! You can learn some really neat stuff in just 5 mins if you just ask people =). If you hear a song that you really like and there is a sound you want to learn how to do, message the artist and ask! You would be surprised how many blocks in your music you can get over just by spending a few seconds and sending messages to artists. I really wish I did that more when i first started making music.

InvisibleObserver: Someone getting into music is usually not a musician. The interest in transition often has to deal with an idolization for music idols, or a desire to say they have made something, over the desire to actually create something. It is hard to split hairs and lay judgment on someone testing the waters, but most people who are getting into music, sputter out and find something more instantly gratifying.

[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]



It's good ;)

I took a little time to listen to a few quick songs by the artists in question before reading the interview. Although most I could differentiate between, I kinda wish there was a bit more genres represented for most seem to fall under some kind of electronic category. Even Goukisan's "guitar" is just the product of a music program. But then again, we are on Newgrounds so perhaps I should have expected that.

I like the topic, Defining Music. A short background on the artists before the big question helps put everything in perspective. The answers certainly interest me, whether it's the amount of people interview who view music as expression or InvisibleObserver trying to separate listeners and composers (I can see a similar tone in some of his other responses). But then it feels as if the interview has apexed as everything else just seemed to be questions about these artist's music. Which sucks since I don't really like them that much. So I didn't bother to read it.

If there was just one thing I could change, I would have edited to make is a least opinionated and most factual as possible. Like I said I don't really like the songs you talk about and some comments on them I completely disagree with. In fact in the final notes I personally agree the least with InvisibleObserver and while that doesn't mean his responses aren't intriguing it kinda feels like the interview is displaying a bit of bias at some points. If I could change two things, I would scrap every question after the definition of music but double the amount of artists interviewed.